Being self-sufficient when we have a disability, and being able to dress ourselves when we get up in the morning, and undress before we go to bed, is so satisfying.
Buttons and zippers can be so frustrating to manage, if we have joint pain, or suffer from cognitive impairments. For those who struggle with dressing themselves, the assistance of a caregiver may be required.
The problem has been simplified by the use of adaptive clothing. Buttons, zippers, and laces are replaced by magnetic or Velcro closures, with many adaptive designs created to make life easier for people living impairments and disabilities.
The adaptive clothing market is relatively large and it’s set to grow even bigger. In the US alone, the adaptive clothing market is expected to surpass US$ 392.67 billion by 2026.
In this article, we will cover the different types of adaptive clothing products that are available that can assist the less-able bodied person with dressing themselves, and we will also cover some of the best adaptive clothing lines that offer good quality and stylish wear.
What is Adaptive Clothing?
Adaptive clothing is apparel that has been designed especially for users with temporary or permanent mobility and dexterity impairments who find dressing and undressing challenging.
The simple task of dressing oneself can be a real struggle for anyone suffering from cognitive impairments such as Parkinson’s, dementia, cerebral palsy, or those suffering from joint pain and stiffness related to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Buttoning or unbuttoning a shirt, or pulling up a zipper, for example, can prove a difficult and often painful experience which can mean the patient may need to rely on a caregiver to help them dress.
Adaptive clothing redesigns traditional apparel in order to make dressing easier and less time-consuming. Buttons and zippers, for example, are replaced with simpler to use magnetic or Velcro closures that can be operated even by users with limited finger dexterity. Side opening pants replace traditional pants which are easier to put on and take off even while remaining seated, and shoes use Velcro closures instead of fiddly laces. These are just an example of the wide array of adaptive clothing that is available that can make life easier for seniors and those with disabilities.
Benefits of Adaptive Clothing
Tips on Choosing Adaptive Clothing for Different Disabilities
Adaptive Clothing for Impaired Mobility/Dexterity
Traditional clothing can be particularly troublesome for anyone suffering from impaired mobility or dexterity. Rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), strokes, for example, can impair someone’s mobility and dexterity. Trying to put on or take off regular clothing can prove particularly challenging as well as cause the user significant discomfort.
In these circumstances, we would recommend the following adaptive clothing which is particularly suited for these users:
Open Back Tops
Open-back tops use Velcro or snap closures that fasten at the back. They can help with assistive dressing as the user does not need to lift their arms in order to put the top on, unlike ones that have a head opening. With an open back top, the caregiver simply needs to slide the patient’s arms into the sleeves which they then fasten easily from the back.
Blouses and tops that open from the back are ideal for those who are unable lift their arms above their head, such as arthritis sufferers, or for those who have partial or complete paralysis, maybe due to a stroke for example.
The following women’s blouse opens completely up which makes it extremely easy to put on and it is secured by snaps at the shoulders.
Shirt and Blouses with Magnetic Buttons
Trying to button up or unbutton a shirt or blouse can prove challenging especially for users with limited finger dexterity, or for anyone suffering with Parkinson’s, or have suffered a stroke. A shirt that has magnetic buttons instead of traditional buttons will mean it will be easier to put on and take off, and you won’t need to handle any awkward buttons.
Open Seat Pants
Side opening pants fasten on the side using Velcro. They are simpler to put on than traditional pants as they usually feature a wider opening. The wearer can slide them on without the need for any excessive bending or struggling with zippers.
For incontinent sufferers, open back pants are also available. It allows the wearer to go to the bathroom more easily, as well as assisting the caregiver in case the patient needs to be changed.
Elastic Waist/Drawstring Pants
Elastic waist pants are also a good alternative to open seat pants. They provide a comfortable fit and are not too tight on the waist so they are perfect to wear while you’re relaxing at home as well as when you need to go out. Due to the elastic waistband they are also extremely easy to pull on and take off and you also do not need to worry about any zips.
For women, a wrap-around skirt can make dressing easier and less painful. These skirts secure around the waist using either Velcro, hook and loop closures or magnetic fasteners. They are comfortable to wear and they can even allow the user to dress while remaining seated or while laying down.
Tops that feature a wider opening are particularly suited for those with restrictive shoulder movement, who find taking a top off both challenging and painful. The wider opening means it is easier to pull over the head, therefore reducing the amount of strain on the user’s arms and shoulders.
The blouse below features both elasticized neck and sleeves, which means it is easier to put on and take off without having to struggle.
Magnetic Zip Closures
For those suffering from partial paralysis who may have limited movement on one side of the body, trying to zip up a jacket with just one arm and can seem like a near-impossible task. Fortunately, there are many jackets that now feature magnetic zippers, which allow the user to zip up their jacket with just one hand.
The following insulated jacket from Tommy Hilfiger features a zip closure that is magnetized at the base, so zipping or un-zipping can be done with a one-handily with ease.
Trying to undo and do up shoelaces requires increased fine motor skills. Conditions that affect hand coordination such as Parkinson’s or cerebral palsy or those that affect dexterity such as arthritis can affect how we tie our shoelaces. It can often make this task extremely challenging.
Slip-on shoes that come with Velcro closures or have elastic laces are particularly recommended in these circumstances. The user can slip their feet into the shoe and fasten the Velcro closure easily using one hand, allowing them to still be active.
Front Fitting Bra
Front fitting bras eliminate the need for any awkward twisting or turning. They feature hook-and-eye closures in the front which makes dressing easier and more convenient. They are particularly suited for anyone suffering from a back problem or for those with impaired mobility in their arm or shoulder.
Adaptive Clothing for Amputees
There are many adaptive clothing options for amputees who use prosthetics due to an amputated arm or leg, such examples include:
Wearing regular pants if you are an amputee can be challenging. It may not fit over the prosthetic and it can often prove uncomfortable, especially if material rubs against the user’s legs when they are walking. This is another challenge that many amputees face if they are unable to access the limb easily.
Amputee pants have been specially designed for those who use a prosthetic leg. These feature zippers or hook and loop closures along the hem allowing the wearer to access their leg more easily.
The following sweatpants from Tommy Hilfiger have hems that have Velcro closures that allow you to adjust the size of the leg opening as well as allowing you to adjust the length of the leg, so you can easily gain access to the limb.
Partial Amputee Socks
For transmetatarsal amputees, trying to find socks that fit can be difficult. Partial amputee socks are designed for those who have suffered a partial foot amputation. These socks offer the user a better fit and are more comfortable to wear as they do not bunch.
Adaptive Clothing for Diabetic Sufferers
Diabetes and conditions such as Raynaud’s disease can cause circulation problems. Edema (swelling) in the feet, ankles, legs, wrists and hands can occur as a result of such diseases. This can often mean the user’s feet and ankles may swell up excessively and they may find regular shoes and socks uncomfortable to wear.
For those who suffer excessive swelling in the lower limbs we would recommend the following:
Width Adjustable Shoes
Extra-wide shoes that are adjustable and have a Velcro closure are particularly suited for users that are prone to suffering swelling. Shoes that have an adjustable design can allow the patient to adjust the fit to suit their individual needs, allowing them to always be comfortable.
Socks with tight elasticated cuffs can restrict circulation, this can be particularly problematic if the user’s legs are prone to swelling, in the case of diabetic sufferers.
Diabetic socks feature comfortable cuffs and toe seams that are not too tight in order not to restrict blood circulation and they are easier to get on and off. They are usually constructed from anti-microbial and breathable materials such as cotton or wool, which reduces the risk of foot infections and allows air to circulate.
Adaptive Clothing for the Bedbound
If you’re caring for someone that is infirm and is bedbound, you will know how challenging it can be helping them to dress and undress when they are laying down. It may often involve having to reposition the person using a transfer sheet or hoist which can be a time-consuming process.
There are a number of clothing options available for the bedbound user which can assist the caregiver in more easily dressing them while they are lying in bed. This includes:
Nightgown with Back Studs
A traditional nightgown usually requires the person to slip it over their head in order to put it on. If the user is unable to move and is lying in bed this can prove particularly challenging for the caregiver.
A nightgown that opens at the back and fastens at the shoulders like the one shown below can allow a caregiver to easily dress the patient even if are laying or sitting down.
Adaptive Clothing for Dementia Sufferers
Dressing can be particularly challenging for patients with Alzheimer’s and those dealing with other forms of dementia. Their fine motor skills may become impaired and they may get easily confused and disoriented.
Patients may struggle with zippers and buttons and they may dress inappropriately, for example, they may attempt to put on nightwear when they are about to leave the house. In these circumstances, clothing that has magnetic or Velcro closures and slip-on shoes with Velcro fasteners are recommended, as it assists the caregiver with dressing them.
Another symptom of dementia is that patients may lose their inhibitions and they may begin to strip off in public. In such situations, we would recommend the following adaptive clothing:
Anti-strip clothing is ideally suited for dementia patients who have a tendency to undress during inappropriate moments. This type of clothing is designed so that the wearer is unable to take off their clothes without the assistance of a caregiver. The following women’s anti-strip jumpsuit, for example, features fasteners in the neck as well as a zipper that extends to below the knee which helps prevent the wearer from easily disrobing in embarrassing situations.
Adaptive Clothing for Wheelchair Users
Regular clothing can often prove uncomfortable and impractical for wheelchair users who need to sit down for prolonged periods. There is however a wide range of different apparel that has been designed with the wheelchair user in mind, which include:
Jeans are perfect for everyday wear, they are both comfortable and durable. The main problem is with regular jeans is they usually feature studs or fasteners as well as seams which can cause skin irritation, which can lead to painful pressure sores. Another drawback is they are not easy to put on or take off especially if the user is unable to stand up.
Wheelchair jeans on the other hand usually have an open back with an elasticated waist which means they can be put on and taken off easily even if the user is seated. They are normally constructed from softer denim so they are comfortable to wear and they usually do not have any back pockets or studs/fasteners which reduces the risk of pressure sores.
Loose Fitting Tops
Tops and shirts that have looser fit around the upper torso area are preferable for a wheelchair user. If the top is too tight around the user’s shoulders or arms, it may prove uncomfortable and it may impede the user from being able to properly propel their wheelchair.
Opt for flat shoes that have a non-slip sole. They will offer more grip and are less likely to slip off the footrests and they will generally be safer especially in wet weather.
The following shoes from Silver’s are lightweight are adjustable making them extremely comfortable to wear when you’re about and the non-slip soles will help to keep you safe.
Wearing a regular jacket can often be too restrictive and uncomfortable when the user is seated on it. A waterproof poncho can be a good alternative to a jacket. A waterproof poncho is designed to cover the user’s full body helping them to keep dry when it’s wet weather. The following poncho has a water repellent outer shell and it is fully lined with faux fur to help keep the wearer warm whatever the weather.
Best Adaptive Clothing Lines
Silvert’s has been selling adaptive clothing and footwear for over 90 years. They offer a wide selection of good quality apparel at sensible prices for both women and men. Whether you’re looking for clothing that can assist someone in dressing themselves with limited dexterity, or you’re looking for something this is suitable for someone with Alzheimer’s, you’ll be sure to find it on Silvert’s.
Their clothing has been cleverly re-engineered to make self-dressing and assisted dressing easier. Popular options include open-back pants that can allow someone to dress themselves even while remaining seated, open-back tops that can be easily put on and taken off, as well as pants that have Velcro side openings instead of zippers for those who struggle with traditional pants. Their website is easily navigable and you can conveniently filter by disability allowing you to quickly locate suitable clothing options for a range of disabilities and impairments.
IZ Adaptive was set-up by Izzy Camiller a leading fashion designer. She aims to create stylish, comfortable and well-fitting adaptive clothing for people living with physical disabilities in particular wheelchairs users.
Those who use wheelchairs often find traditional clothing uncomfortable and impractical. Izzy has tried to resolve this by designing apparel that is suitable for both wheelchair users and those who are ambulatory. Their jeans for example do not bunch up, and their coats are designed to be comfortable even when worn in a seated position. Great care has been given to each item of clothing, for example, buttons on shirts have been replaced with magnetic closures, pull tabs have been added to zippers and tops have been designed with an open back to assist with dressing. IZ Adaptive’s website offers a range of wardrobe staples, including sweatpants, denim wear, coats and tees.
Zappos Adaptive Footwear & Clothing
Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer also has a good selection of adaptive apparel for both children and adults. There is an array of adaptive footwear to choose from, including slip-on shoes perfect for those with limited dexterity who may struggle with shoelaces. There are also shoes suitable for diabetics as well as orthotic friendly options.
Sensory-friendly clothing is available that have tear-away tags which is suitable for users with autism. There’s also wheelchair-friendly clothes as well as clothing with magnetic closures that are ideal for anyone with limited dexterity.
Able2Wear design and manufacture wheelchair and adaptive clothing for both men and women. They have a selection of wheelchair clothing including waterproof jackets/capes, fleeces as well as drop front pants which can easily be put on and taken off while the wearer remains seated. They also offer a tailor made service where you can specify the size you want, and have it custom made for your own individual needs, which is handy if you unable to find your size.
Target Adaptive Clothing
Target has got its own adaptive clothing line including wheelchair-adaptive and sensor-friendly apparel aimed for both kids and adults.
Their sensor-friendly clothing has been specially designed, and uses super-soft materials with flat seams and are tag less, making it suitable for those with autism who can’t bear wearing itchy materials. For wheelchair users, adaptive jeans have been designed with a high-rise back and flattened seams with no back pockets to increase comfort and reduce the risk of pressure sores for the seated wearer.
Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive
Tommy Hilfiger was the first high-end fashion brand to launch into the adaptive clothing market in 2016. Their aim was to create fashionable adaptive clothes suitable for users with disabilities and impairments. Their adaptive clothes are suitable for wheelchairs users, and for anyone suffering with a reduced range of movement, as well as for those who use prosthetics.
Pants are available with adjustable hems, magnetic buttons, or Velcro closures are used instead of buttons on shirts or tops, one-handed zippers are used on jackets, and tops have wider neck openings.